While the team is busy sifting through think tank publications for the next issue of our Review, here’s a look back to days 2 and 3 of the 2014 UACES conference.
If a thread can be found in the presentations attended by this writer, it lies in the attempt by an inter-disciplinary scholarly community to make sense of change and challenges for the EU. Change as the one that occurred on the institutional level since roughly the EU ‘constitutional crisis’ of 2005; challenges rising from the broader context and forcing a rethinking of concepts such as legitimacy, statehood, as well as the discipline’s own status and boundaries.
Speaking of statehood, the second plenary was devoted to the Scottish independence referendum and was, predictably, covered in the Irish press. There are so many resources on this subject available already that we will rather skip to our takeaways from two other panels, notably one on EU institutions and one on ‘dissident voices in EU studies’.
In the panel on institutions, Doreen Allerkamp (Mannheim) looked at how holding the rotating presidency shapes a Member State’s voting behaviour in Council. This goes as far as to create, in her words, a “pro-integrationist” bias even in presidencies held by countries with less integrationist policy stances. Her analysis is based on a corpus of voting records from 1998 to 2009, supplemented by interviews with officials and diplomats. We look forward to her book, which should be out in 2016, with case-studies of 6 UK presidencies.
Institutional changes intervened since the Lisbon treaty lead to a slightly different finding. Analysing over 30.000 voting observations since the introduction of trio presidencies, Crombez, Vangerven and Gruisen concluded that “a member state that belongs to the Trio, is more likely to vote in favor of legislative proposals. Whether the member state holds the Presidency, however, does not further increase that likelihood”.
It will be interesting to see how this element of continuity in the Council presidency develops. Certainly, both studies highlight the impact of institutional roles and organizational practices on policy stances, itself a tenet of research on Europeanization. They also give empirical footing to often-heard intuitions by practitioners. This resonates well with the plea by Rebecca Adler-Nissen, in another panel, to draw from ethnographic methods and examine the daily practices of interaction within the EU institutions. We like to think that this confirms the rationale behind the library’s online bibliography, which also includes works in a fledgeling sociology of our organization. Of interest in this respect are also the archival documents from the beginnings of the Council secretariat, a selection of which was published some time ago on this blog.
In the next couple of days we will report other insights from UACES 2014 panels, for example on the supposed ‘decline’ of the European Commission, on the legitimacy of the European Council (yes, here we have to declare an interest), on differentiated integration between East and West 10 years after the enlargement, and on a whole series of -isms that EU studies should try to include, or at least be aware of. Stay tuned…